Kirby Super Star is a smorgasbord of creativity, as if the developers at HAL Laboratory had a game jam for two weeks straight and came out on the other side with a beautifully disheveled collection of Kirby’s best. Nine sub-games, ranging from one-button tests of reflex to multi-hour adventures, are stuffed onto the SNES with no holds barred, turning tried-and-true mechanics into a fun-filled variety show. It lacks a certain level of cohesion, but once you stare into the deceptively deep well of Kirby Super Star, you won’t be glimpsing the light of day for a good long while.
Most of the included games work from a familiar blueprint. Kirby, the smiling pink balloon thingy that everyone loves, can float through the air, dash across the ground, and — of course — eat enemies to steal their unique powers. The 2D platformer’s move-set has been greatly expanded this time around, gifting you with a bevy of attacks per copy ability and even going so far as to throw in a few light combos, reminiscent of HAL Laboratory’s future project Super Smash Bros. Any pseudo-fighting game would be incomplete without multiplayer, of course, so a second player can jump in to take control of a bad guy turned good (as can a surprisingly competent AI partner). Still, those are just the building blocks to the weird tower that is Kirby Super Star.
The first game-within-a-game on the list is Spring Breeze, a heavily remastered version of the original Kirby’s Dream Land. The streets run pink with memories as fondly remembered landmarks are scaled and age-old enemies are gulped down, set to a string of jaunty tunes that never get old. Everything is made new thanks to bright colours and cartoon characters with thick lines, and having the chance to play through Kirby’s inaugural adventure with a friend is welcome indeed.
We all know how infuriating it is to have a ginormous bird swoop down and steal all the land’s crops, and that highly relatable story is the plot for the next sub-game: Dyna Blade. An avian intruder of that very name forces Kirby out on quest to feed the hungry, which turns out to be a barrel of fun. This is a fairly standard format compared to the other sub-games at hand, merely serving as a showcase for Super Star’s basics. Isolated, it might come off as a short, slightly unambitious entry in the series, but as part of a greater whole, it’s a lovely addition.
During those days when ginormous birds are leaving folks well and truly alone, wouldn’t you know it, that’s when you fall in an impossibly vast cavern filled with treasure. The Great Cave Offensive is an open-ended spelunking field day that has you poking into every corner to collect gems, candy, fossils, swords, Mr. Saturns, and a boatload more. Beating down bosses one by one as you up your treasure count and make your way to the exit is an intriguing concept that's difficult to put down, despite confusing layouts that occasionally seem to loop in circles. You’ll need a fair bit of patience for this one, but the wait is worth it.
Quite the opposite, Meta Knight’s Revenge is frenetic action incarnate. The helmed villain plots to put the residents of Dream Land in their place, so Kirby decides to take apart his heavily armed airship Halberd, piece by piece. You’re on the clock for this sub-game, an incessant time limit breathing down your neck as you struggle through buffeting winds at a breakneck pace. This is when having another player around is especially entertaining; laughter and shouts of dismay are the norm. The bad guys are even more freaked out than you, however, and they make it clear. A surprisingly involved and intense story is told through a loudspeaker, text boxes popping up to track your destructive course through the Halberd as all hands on deck panic. Admittedly, the moment-to-moment action can be a little sloppy, but a frantic speed picks up the slack.
Then there’s Milky Way Wishes, a huge escapade in outer space. The Sun and Moon are at war, which is (understandably) causing a mild kerfuffle, and Kirby has agreed to settle this celestial debate. The twist is that swallowing anyone who looks at you funny isn’t the key to gaining copy abilities; finding a host of magical pedestals is. Once you track down a specific power, you can switch to it at will, gradually increasing your arsenal over time. Once you’ve got this concept wrapped around your brain, it’s a simple matter of flying between planets in whatever order you choose and blasting through a whole mess of obstacles. Expansive and free-form, this is a highlight of Kirby Super Star.
The final four sub-games are actually closer to mini-games, but all of them good. Gourmet Race pits Kirby against his majesty’s grumpiness King Dedede in a thrilling footrace as they fight for snacks. It’s short and — considering the desserts on display — sweet, especially considering the catchy music. Samurai Kirby is a wonderfully elaborate sunset scene between two warriors staring each other down; when the figurative gong tolls, whoever smashes a button first is the victor (and the loser ends up in some inevitably embarrassing position). Megaton Punch is a competition of timing in which two rivals tap buttons to moving targets, resulting in a massive show of strength that literally cracks the world open. Lastly, Arena is a gauntlet of back-to-back boss fights, which is a nice bonus. These mini-games aren’t much to speak of on their own, but they make a fine icing to this rainbow-flavoured cake.
Kirby Super Star is unbalanced is strange ways. Some sub-games reinvent the wheel for a brief moment of amusement while others reuse one another’s assets to create large, seemingly similar experiences. An overarching theme or story is completely lacking. There’s no true method to the madness and, quite frankly, that’s delightful. Classic Kirby gameplay doesn’t always stand up on its own, but it’s extraordinarily versatile, and absolutely perfect for a grand experiment like this. If you’re up for something different, never quite knowing what’s around the next corner, Kirby Super Star just might be your cup of tea.